Lake Mead water level: Live update

A previously sunk boat lies on the dry lake bed of Lake Mead in May.
A previously sunk boat lies on the dry lake bed of Lake Mead in May. (John Locher / AP)

The federal government announced Tuesday, the Colorado River will operate in Level 2 shortages for the first time starting in January as the West’s historic drought has severely damaged Lake Mead.

According to a new forecast from the Department of the Interior, Lake Mead’s water levels will be below 1,050 feet above sea level in January – the threshold required to declare a Level 2 shortage starting in 2023.

Lake Mead’s water level has reached about 1,040 feet this summer, just 27% of its operating capacity.

A Tier 2 shortfall means Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will have to further reduce their use of the Colorado River starting in January. California will not cut their Colorado River. (The threshold for California’s first cut was 1,045 feet in January.)

Of the affected states, Arizona will face the biggest cut – 592,000 acres – or about 21% of the state’s annual river water allocation.

“Every industry in every state has a responsibility to ensure that water is used with maximum efficiency. To avoid the catastrophic collapse of the Colorado River System and a future of instability and conflict, water use in the basin must be reduced,” said Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo in a statement.

Interior Department projections show that by January next year, Lake Mead’s water level will be at 1,047.61 feet. Meanwhile, Lake Powell’s water elevation will stand at 3,521.84 feet — 32 feet above the energy minimum, or the amount of electricity needed to generate electricity from hydroelectric operations.

Additionally, U.S. Reclamation Service Commissioner Camille Touton and other federal water officials said they are prepared to take the additional administrative actions necessary to protect the Colorado River, Lake Powell, and Lake Mead from being damaged. fell to “extremely low levels”.

Earlier this summer, Touton set a mid-August deadline for seven Colorado River states to come up with plans to cut their river water use by up to 25%. Earlier this week, it became apparent that those negotiations had stalled, prompting some lawmakers and state water officials to call on the federal government to act aggressively on its own.

The Interior has yet to outline the next steps in Touton’s request for the states’ plan.

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